Premier League English

The stardust of Kevin De Bruyne’s magic inspires Manchester City comeback win

Not even five minutes were all it took for Kevin De Bruyne to show why his return from injury was of the utmost significance for Manchester City in the second half of their their coming to grips with a Geordies side going all out to snatch a historic win against Pep Guardiola’s finest.

Five months fresh from surgery on his hamstring injury – and not having made a league appearance since the opening round of the season in August – De Bruyne evacuated the bench to score the enchanting equalizer, besides subsequently setting up an injury-time winner for City in their 3-2 win at St. James’ Park. Comfortingly for the spirit, it looked and felt as if he’d never been away.

City had been trailing 2-1 at St. James’ Park with Guardiola’s men finding it a bit of a struggle to find the extra bit of quality needed to break down the hosts’ robust defense until the talismanic De Bruyne made his presence in the 69th minute and magically turned the game around with two perfect touches of his right foot.

The 74th minute saw a light-footed De Bruyne swoop onto the ball and drive forward before side-footing a pinpoint finish just inside the near post, out of reach of goalkeeper Martin Dubravka. Then, in stoppage time, he completed his comeback magic act as he sent the ball into the box for substitute Oscar Bobb to score his first Premier League goal.

“I missed this,” De Bruyne said. “I think it was more willpower than anything else. It was crazy. I know I’m not able to do that for 90 minutes at the moment. I can put in a shift for 30 minutes at the moment. I feel it in my lungs, especially with the cold.”

Bobb’s goal doomed Newcastle to a fourth straight league loss and Eddie Howe’s team is now behind Chelsea, which climbed into eighth place with a 1-0 win over Fulham. Only two games were played Saturday with half of the Premier League teams having the weekend off for a short winter break.

City’s win meant it was a sixth straight win in all competitions, but the psychological boost of having a still recovering De Bruyne back to full fitness could prove even more important than the three points they managed to salvage. This is especially with Norwegian striker Erling Haaland still hovering on the sideline until the end of the month with a foot injury.

“When Kevin has the ball and we have runners, Kevin is unique in the world,” Guardiola said. “But the finish by Oscar, I am so, so happy for him.”

Guardiola’s team are now in second place, above Aston Villa but still two points behind leader Liverpool.

It would be pertinent for all observers to remember that the defending champions had also managed to resurgently fight their way back from a bigger deficit in the second half of the campaign to overtake Arsenal for the title last season.